Threading the Needle:
Florida Plan Gives Citizens Real Paper Ballots
Bill Faulkner’s Answer to
Fear and Loathing in
the Voting Booth
North Florida. Retired Navy aviator and veteran, Bill Faulkner, MBA, may have done the impossible. He devised a plan to return believable elections to Florida by turning optical scan forms into the ballot of record, to be counted by citizens in public areas where all can view the process taking place. This radical departure from the maze of today’s computerized voting harkens back to over 100 years of U.S elections history. But first, a little background.
We all want to vote and know that our votes are counted properly and that the true winner of any election won fair and square. Since 2000, it’s become virtually impossible to know what happens to our votes if we’re voting on computerized voting machines (touch screens) or on paper ballots totaled by the other computerized voting machine, optical scan readers. Lately we’re hearing terms like paper trails and verified ballots. These are just slightly more sensible than undervotes and overvotes. Casting aside bureaucratic jargon and the explanations of hired gun experts, we know this much.
- When our votes enter a touch screen machine, we have no idea what happens to those votes.
- When we mark a special paper ballot read by a computerized optical scan reader, we have no idea how the readers operate or if they’re operated properly.
- If we ask to watch vote counting, we’ll almost always be told NO or, if allowed, we’re placed in a distant corner like a six year old having a tantrum.
- Finally even if we’re given a pass to watch computerized vote counting, we end up observing a box covering a computer most of us don’t understand, provided by vendors (any of them) that seem to blame any problems with the election process on …. you guessed it … YOU, the citizen, the tax payer.. Comforting isn’t it.
The 200 plus news stories alone concerning 2006 voting problems are just the tip of the iceberg. The Congressional effort to improve our voting system by fixing the problems of Florida 2000 has been about as successful as the effort to balance the budget or reign in the executive branch. But it’s our fault, we have to remember that. After 230 years of our history We the people suddenly forgot how to vote.
Florida still has problems…after all this time and six billion dollars
The Congressional election in Florida’s 13th district saw heavy turnout. The seat was previously held by Florida’s former elections chief and king maker Katherine Harris. The 2006 race was a grudge match for all the marbles. In most of the district, only 2 to 3% of ballots otherwise marked, had no mark for Congress, about average for Florida. But in Sarasota County, 15%, or 18,000 ballots otherwise marked had no mark for Congress.
The only consistent difference between the areas with the 3% and 15% missing Congressional vote figures was the type of electronic voting machines used. Sarasota had the latest and greatest, touch screens, while the others parts of the district had, for this election, the somewhat more reliable optical scan readers. Makes sense doesn’t it? The touch screens malfunctioned. No other Florida Congressional race had a 15% missing vote rate for the Congressional race.
But in electronic voting world, we are required to ignore the logical explanation. The State of Florida expert panel has spoken. It’s your fault, my fault, our fault! It’s always the voter’s fault! Rather than accept that an overly complex solution to a problem that barely existed has turned into a life draining parasite on the body politic, we’re told that the ballot design was inferior in Sarasota. Citizens simply failed to vote for the most important race in the district. They went to the trouble of getting to the polling place but once there, they forgot why they went. They simply couldn’t find this.
Before poor ballot design was selected as the culprit by the experts empanelled by the state, we heard other causes related to our incompetent voting behavior. Negative campaigning made us not want to vote, but only for Congress. We’re too old, some of us, which made it hard for us to vote for that big race even though we voted for other races on the same ballot. But it is ballot design that caused the problems. We just can’t read or see very well any more, those of us who voted.
The obvious answer, the only answer, the one sure difference between Sarasota and the rest of the district, different voting machines, was dismissed out of hand. Why? If there’s a problem with voting machines throwing out votes that change an election, then someone might ask the next question. Since computers simply do as they’re instructed, who programmed the machines to throw out votes in Sarasota, the strongest part of the district for the loser, Christine Jennings.
We are not only denied simple logic and common sense from these experts entrusted with our elections, we’re never allowed to consider malicious acts like politicians (of either party) cheating. Perish the thought. It’s all just one big coincidence, time after time.
Possibilities for change…